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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  December 12, 2010 5:45am-6:30am EST

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anything done. [laughter] thank you all for coming, and it's nice to be back here at the book fair. it is -- there's a special buzz to this thing. i'm kind of at a loss to explain
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it, but there's so much energy in the air here, and it's a really neat event, so it's good to be here. i've been asked to read to you, and i'm told we actually have a real 45 minutes opposed to the 45 minutes with 10 minutes cut out in the beginning of it. i'll read awhile, and then i'll take audience questions if there are any, which i hope there are. i also should warn you that i have new glasses. [laughter] they seem like, i'm not sure they are any good for most things, but they are good for making it almost impossible to look up and then find the correct focal point when i look back down. [laughter] i actually brought my old glasses along, but left them in the hotel. [laughter] so, forfive me if i'm --
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forgive me if i'm guessing at certain words. my new novel, "freedom" didn't really take me nine years to write, but one year, and seven years to get to that point. it's a hard book to read from because the chapters are long and there's no easy break points, and i don't want a book that breaks down into little, you know, not that interchangeable, but separately enjoyly bites. i want it to kind of make you keep reading, that kind of thing, so i'm going to read -- i'm just going to tradeoff in the middle of the section when i felt i've read enough. [laughter] you'll be left with that it goes on in a similar bane, but it gets more uncomfortable about
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the character i'll be reading about. his parents are really at the very center of the book, but he's a central character too, and this takes place quite far before the main action of the book. i'm not giving much away by reading it, and you just need to know that he grew up in st. paul with very lovely parents who he decided he couldn't bear to live with at 16, and moved in with his girlfriend who lived next door. [laughter] now, he's gone off to college in virginia. it's really warm. [laughter] [laughter] the chapter is called womanland, excuse me, the name of the
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chapter is womanland. growing up in st. paul, he received assurances his life would be a lucky one, like a great open field run, the sense of cutting and weaving at full speed through a defense that moved in slow motion, the entire field of play as all visible and graspable as a rookie game the way every facet of his life felt for the first 18 years. the world had given to him, and he was fine with taking. he arrived as a first year student with the ideal clothes and haircut and he was paired with a perfect roommate from nova. college looked like an extension of the world he had always known it, only better. he was so convinced of this, took so much for granted, than on 9/11 he left his roommate to
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monitor the burning towers to two to his lecture. once he found the hall empty, he understood a serious glitch occurred. in the days after 9/11, everything was extremely stupid to him. it was stupid that a vigil of concern was held and that the boys honk a banner of support from their house and it was stupid that the fblght game against penn state was canceled and so many kids left grounds to be with their family and it was stupid that everyone there said grounds instead of campus. they had endless stupid arguments with the conservative kids like anyone cared. a big fuss was made about the students who lost family friends in the attacks as if the other kind of horrible deaths occurring in the world mattered
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less, and there was stupid applause when a van full of upper classmen went to new york to help do the job. he wanted normal life to return as fast as possible. he felt he bumped his diskman against the law into a track he didn't recognize or like or be able to stop playing. he was so lonely and hungry for familiar things that he gave connie permission to take a bus to visit him, there by undoing a month of spade work to prepare her for their breakup. he stress the the importance of not getting together for nine months to test their feelings for each other. the idea was to develop independent selfs and see if they were still a good match. this was no more a test than a high school chemistry
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experiment. she stayed in minnesota and he pursued a business career and met girls who were more advanced, exotic, and connected or so he imagined. she spent the entire weekend camped out on his bed with her overnight bag on the floor and zipping herself back inside them to minimize her foot -- footprints. she poured over the faces over his facebook, and laughed at the ones without times in 40 hours stoning themselves on the bug she brought along and when it was time to bring her back, he loaded new songs on her mp, player. he felt responsible for her and
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needed to break up with her anyway, and couldn't think how. at the bus station he brought up her education that she promised to pursue, but somehow without explanation, had nod. you need to start classes in january and transfer to the u next year. okay, she said. you're really smart, you can't keep being a waitress. okay. she looked away at the line forming by her bus. i'll do it for you. not for me, for you like she promised. she shook her head. you just want me to forget about you. not true, not true at all, although it was fairly true. i'll go to school, but it won't make me forget about you, nothing will. right, but we still need to find out who we are and do some growing. i already know who i am. maybe you're wrong, maybe -- no, she said. i'm not wrong. i only want to be with you,
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that's all i want in my life. you're the best person in the world. you can do anything you want, and i'll be there for you. you'll have companies, and i can work for you or you can work for president, and i'll work your campaign and do anything else won't do. if you want children, i'll raise them for you. he was aware of needing his wits about him to reply to this, but he was still somewhat stoned. [laughter] here's the thing i want you to do. get a college education, like, for example, he unwisely added, if you are going to work for me, you need to know a lot of different stuff. that's why i said i'd go to school for you, weren't you listening? he was seeing that prices were not always evident at first glance, but the ballooning interest charges on his high school pleasures might still lie ahead of him.
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we better get in line. okay. we should go a week without calling. we need to be more disciplined. okay, she said. she walked towards the bus station. he followed with her bag and didn't have to worry about her making a scene. she was never an investor on sidewalk hand holding, never a clinger, a reproacher. she saved her arter for when they were alone. when the bus doors out of sight. connie o beadily did not call him and as the national fever broke, he attempted blowout football losses and worked out at the gym and gained beer weight. he grave at a timed from
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prosperous family who believed in carpet bombing the islam ceo world. he wasn't right wing himself, but comfortable with those who were. reaming afghanistan was not what his since of dislocation demanded, but it was close enough to afford some satisfaction. only when enough beer was consumed to bring a group conversation around to sex, did he feel isolated. his thing with connie was too intense and sincere to muddle with love to be fungible as coin as bragging. he disstains and envied his hall mates for their poreny e vowels of what they wanted to do to the babes or facebook or supposedly had done without regret or consequence to considering more than that
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glorified -- masturbation itself was a meaning was no longer valuing himself in weaning himself from connie. he was the hand cap bathroom in the science library who collected 7.65 an hour and read books. landing a job at the reserve desk was another confirmation that he was destined to be fortuned in life. the library had printed matter of widespread interest that it was guarded in separate stacks and could not leave the building. many of the reserved texts were written in formally popular day
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until finally at the desk on the very day he realized he probably waited one day too long, he got a call from connie's mother. carol, hello. you probably know why we are calling. no, i don't. you have been breaking our friend. i was going to call her tonight. really? you were? yes. why do i not believe you? i don't know. it's gone to bed without eating and went to bed at 7. good thing i didn't call then. this is not funny, she's depressed. you need to stop messing around. she is not a dog you can tie to a parking meter and then forgot about. maybe you should get her an
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antidepressant. you can't leave her in the backseat with the windows rolled up. we are part of your life, we deserve a little more than the nothing you have been giving us. this is a frightening fall for all concerned, and you have been absent. you know, i have classes to atepid and so forth. too busy for a phone call after three and a half weeks of silence. i was going to call her tonight. leave connie out of it. we were like a family for two years and never thought i'd say this, but i'm getting an idea of what you put your mom through. seaterly, i never understood how cold you are until this fall. he directed a smile of pure oppression at the ceiling. there's always been something not right with his interaction with carol. she was what the boys in the prep school would call a milf, an acronym that sounded as an emission for the too for two,
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matter of a dirty acronym. he was a sound sleeper, there was nights during the period of his residency when he woke up in connie's bed with premonitions of himself as the unwitting and horrified trespasser of his sister's bed or the accidental shooter of a nail into blake's forehead with his nail gun or strangest of all the towering crane and the member swinging heavy containers off a ship and depositing them on a smaller, flatter barge. these visions tended to follow matters of inappropriate connection of carol. the come -- the wing he got from her at the dinner table and putting connie on the pill. since she was not able to be
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displeased with him, it was her mother to register his discontents. he straight talking advocate, and joey had the sense of being the sandwich party the a threesome and carols mouth running and running with things connie would not say and he jolting awake in the wee hours with a sense of entrapment in something not quite right. what am i supposed to do? well, for starters, be a more responsible boyfriend. i'm not her boyfriend. what does that mean? it means we are experimenting with being apart. she says you want her to go to school so she can be your assistant. look, i was stoned when i said that. i mistakingly said the wrong thing. you think i don't know she
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smoked pot. you're not telling me anything i don't know. you just make yourself look like a bad boyfriend when you snitch on her. my point is i said the wrong thing and have not corrected myself because we agreed not to talk for awhile. whose responsibility is that? you are like a god to her. you tell her to hold her breath, she will until she faints. who's fault is that? it's yours. no, carol, it's yours. your the parent, i just came along. yeah, and now you're going your own way without taking responsibility with being all be married to her with being a part of our family. i'm a freshman in college, and the weird rns of having this conversation, and i understand i had a baby girl when i was a year older than you. how is that working out for you? [laughter] not too bad, as a matter of fact. i wasn't going to tell you this
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because it's early on, but since you asked, blake and i are having a little baby and our family is going to get bigger. it took her a moment that she was telling him she was prague pregnant. he said i'm busy at this moment. right, i'll call her tomorrow afternoon. no, that won't do it. you need to come out right away and spend time with her. that's not an option. come for a week at thanksgiving with a nice dinner all four of us to give her something to look forward to, and you can see how depressed she is. he had been planning to spend the holiday in washington with his roommate whose older sister photographed misleading well, or worth meeting in person. the sister's name was jenna which connected her to the bush twins and the parting and loose named morals. [laughter] i don't have money for a flight and you can take a bus like
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conny or is the bus not good enough? i have other plans. well, you better change your plans. the torment get worse for a page and a half that i'll skip. [laughter] as if to reassure himself that carol was wrong about him, he went in the darkness on the bench. he's now sitting on a bench. [laughter] after the library closed, he went into the chilly night, and sat on a bench outside his door. [laughter] to reassure himself, he went a little in the darkness. [laughter] on his bench. [laughter] went, for connie and her misery and having burdened her to carol and not being the person to save her, then he dried his eyes and called his own mother when carol could have heard ringing if she was by a window listening
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closely. joseph, his mother said, i seem to remember that name from somewhere. [laughter] hi, mom. immediately, a silence. sorry i haven't called in awhile. oh, well, she said, there's nothing much happening around here other than anthrax scares and a realtor tried to sell our house and your dad flying to washington. they have to stay in their seat before they land. that's weird. what are they thinking the terrorist are going to cancel their plans because the seat belt sign is on? [laughter] they hand out whole cans of drinks and tell you to go to the bathroom. [laughter] she sounded like a lady and not the vital force he thought of her. everything he had done with regard to her in the last three years was calculated to fore
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close the personal sort of talks they had when he was younger to get her to shut up, train her to contain herself, to make sure stop pestering him with her heart and uncensored shelf, and now that training was complete, he wanted too undo it. am i allowed to ask if all is well with you, she said? everything is well with me. life is good in the former slave states? [laughter] very good. the weather is beautiful. right, that's the advantage of growing up in minnesota, everywhere you go now, the weather will be nicer. [laughter] yep. and are you making lots much new friends? meeting lots of people? yep. well, good, good, good. good, good, good. it's nice of you to call. i know you don't have to, but it's nice that you did. you have real fans here back at home, a herd of male first years
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busted out on to the lawn and they loathed affect natalie joey joey. sounds like you have fans there too, his mother said. yep. my popular boy. yep. another silence fell as the herd headed to fresh watering holes. he felt a pang of disadvantage watching them go. he's paying for his own college. he didn't want to be the poor kid drinking a beer and everyone else had six. he didn't want to be a free load every either, and this required funds. how is dad likes his new job? i think he's liking it okay, it's sort of driving him insane, you know, having lots of other money to fix on the things he thinks is wrong with the world. he used to complain no one fixed them and now he has to do it and
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since we're all going to hell in a hand basket, we get e-mails at 3 in the morning. what about you? well, it's nice to ask, but you don't really want to know. sure, i do. no, trust me you don't, and i'm not sighing that in many mean way. you got your life, and i got mine. it's all good, good, good. no, but, like what do you do all day? his mother say that can be a somewhat awkward question or asking an unmarried person why they are not married. you have to be careful when asking questions. i'm in limbo now and it's hard to make changes in my life when i'm moving and i started writing for my amusement and keep the house looking like a bed and breakfast. i make sure the magazines are nicely fanned. [laughter] his feelings were giving way to
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irritation because no matter how much she denied she was doing it, she couldn't help but reproach them. these moms and reproaches, there was no end to it. he called for support, and the next thing he was falling short of providing for her. how are you with money? do you have enough? it's a little tight, he admitted. i bet. once i'm a resident here, it'll be fine. do you want me to send you money? he smiled in the darkness. i thought dad said there wasn't going to be any money? dad doesn't have to know every little thing and the school -- school doesn't have to know everything either. i'll send you a check if that helps. then what? nothing. i'm saying you made your point with dad just to keep proving a
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point. let me think about it. i'll put a check in the mail to you and you decide on your own if you want to cash it or not or discuss it with me. he smiled again. why are you doing this? well, you know, believe it or not, i want you to have the life you want to have. i've had free time for asking myself questions like if you never wanted to see us again the rest of our life, would i still want you to be happy? that's a bizarre question with no bearing on reality. my point is that we think we know the answer to the question. parents want the best for thinker kids regard legislation of what they get in return. that's what love is supposed to be like. that's a strange belief given what we know about the way people really are, self-fish and short sided and needy, why should being a parent confer? i told you about my parents for
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example, not very much, he said. well, i'll tell you more if you ask nicely. my appointment is i've -- my point is i've given thought love to you and i thought -- mom, can we talk about something else or actually some other day next week or something? i have a lot of stuff to do here before bed. a silence of injury di sended in st. paul. i'm sure, it's just late and i have a lot of stuff to do. i was explaning, his mother said in a lower voice. i'll send a check. great, thank you, that's nice of you i guess. his mother thanked him for calling and hung up. he looked for bushes or somewhere he can cry unobserved. seeing none, he ran inside his door veered into the first onhe came to and locked himself into a stall and sobbed with hatred
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of his mother. thank you. [applause] it gus on like that from there. [laughter] sort of one woman after another making joey's life hard for him. that was the idea for that chapter. sorry i only got to show you the first couple scenes. if there are questions, there's a microphone up here, or you can also shout, and i'll repeat. if you're like really buried in the middle of some aisle, or if there's no questions -- there is, shout it and i'll repeat it. >> [inaudible]
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how not world did you capture so well in the five years -- [inaudible] i'll give you a slightly -- >> i'll give you a slightly edited version of that question. it was the first main character, patty. thank you for complement. in the form of how you do that, well, gosh, work in a darkroom with no internet. you know, you're really trying to -- that's what that deprivation is for to go back to the same dream you were dreaming the day before, and try to pick it up and stay in the dream as much as
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you can, so i was getting up early and going to bed early and god, i sound like an athlete in a locker room. [laughter] you know, the team played a great game too -- [laughter] we won't be able to do it again tomorrow. it's sort of what it is though. it's -- i look at things that i've written, and i don't know how i wrote them, and -- because i'm no longer in that daily dreaming place, and it -- there is something about being in that made up world every day in a regular way that makes it possible to sort of move around inside it and feel what it's like for everybody in it and that's the best short answer, or
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not so short answer that i can give. yes? >> thank you. this comes from my boyfriend who is in an airport somewhere. >> okay. >> family dynamics are a long standing sjt for novel, and your depiction of family members seem unbelievably natural in dialogue. have you devoted special attention to that balance? >> to that what? >> to that balance. >> balance. yes. [laughter] >> i'll just tell him yes. >> just tell him yes. [laughter] >> okay. >> if you want something, i'll speak slow and we'll go on. [laughter] or you can just like put him on speakerphone or something. >> he could be on a plane. >> oh, okay. no, that is -- i've devoted at least worry, if
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not work to that balance. what increasingly i go through with writing these books is a sense that this is too weird, this is not typical, this is not let alone typical. in the case of joey, you know, he is an exception. most college students talk to their parents five times a day and are plugged in and helicoptering around them, and that's more typical, and it's not typical for a kid to leave and go move in with his girlfriend, so in a way, i know -- i know going in that i'm writing these extreme stories, and my feeling always is this is just -- it's my own weird personal experience of the world, and terrorist -- one of the big tasks is to trust the material enough to just go
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with that weirdness and take it kind of on faith that i'm perhaps at the level underneath that deep level, maybe not so weird, and just like everybody else, so part of it for me is oh, i recognize this person -- [laughter] like, wow, that's -- i walk around feeling like such a freak, so it works both ways and it's gratifying to get that back in return. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> hi, well, i love your book, and i mean for what it's worth, there was moments where i thought you were spying on my life, and other people seem to think that too, so i guess we're all weirdment one of the things i really enjoyed very much about the book was the complexity of the main characters, and that in certain ways that they were both very likable in some ways, and not very likable in others, and
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i wonder if you might be able to talk a little bit about your attitude towards these characters, you know? obviously, they are your creation, but i imagine you have your own identifications with them, things that you were drawn to about them, and in ways in which you dent like them. i wonder if you can comment on that? >> yes, happy too. thank you for the good question. i couldn't stand joey for instance. [laughter] for a long time, and when i say, you know, i wish i could redo the whole chapter because i put him through one torture after another, he is this really, just totally together guy. he's, you know, he's much more conservative libertarian than i am. he's at ease in the world of all the ways i'm uncomfortable with it, and just in expwrnl one of those -- general one of those annoying young people. not all young people are
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annoying, but there are some, and he always seemed to be one of them, and so this -- part of this one problem -- to address -- actually two parts to your question. one is the problem of liking the character, and if i can't like the character, i can't write the book, and i was very hung up because i could not figure out how to like the guy, and it was only when i started to try to imagine, well, what would be the worst thing that could happen to him in a comic way? like what would make him the very most uncomfortable? i would start like upsetting him, and oh, no, now connie's mom, and i started to like him because he was no longer in control. that was the solution to that problem of liking was, you know, how to take away his control and watch what happens to him, and i suddenly realized that he was a lot like me at that age, and so
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he turned out to be my favorite character which is why i wanted to read about him today. the other problem is sympathy. sympathy is harder because -- i was thinking about this yesterday. i was in a very irritable move which is what i often am. [laughter] and i was wondering if it's possible to be irritated with yourself, you know when you're really, really irritable, and absolutely everything anyone says is the wrong thing and anything that happens, any noise, everything, is just exactly wrong. i was really noticing how unirritated with myself i was. anything i said didn't irritate me at all. [laughter] yet, i was intensely irritable, so it's a neat little lesson in how, how you don't --
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you don't necessarily see the ways in which you're dislikely, and if you make up characters you like, you don't see how other people are not going to like them, but, so, yeah -- that's one of the five major things one is working on in trying to figure out how to be honest, and honestly people are not entirely likable, and those who are entirely likable aren't interesting to write novels about. [laughter] i'm constantly -- yeah, i have friends i show things to and ask if they like this kind of character, that kind of thing. very, very short answer, really compared to what i could say on the subject of sympathy. >> thank you. >> yes, sir? >> ouch. i was about to thank you for your excellent reading and to say that your book was very easy for me to relate to after your
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last comments, i'm not sure if i want to say that. [laughter] my question is more about the industry, the macrolevel in publishing in general. sorry about that. i'm curious about your thoughts on how -- is it important now in this day and age and day of the internet and having powerful computers -- is it important for it to have your personality to sell a book? is it important to have that endorsement? i'm curious, you know where i'm going with this, but curious on your unadulterated thoughts on this topic. [laughter] >> i'm flattered that you think i might offer an unadulterated thought up here. [laughter] it's kinding killing me actually, honestly.
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the energy goes up when i come on stage, and i do like reading from the work, and i really like meeting readers. that's the one part that stays good, but, and i've had not that much -- i have not been like really flogging something to death. these poor movie actors, they have to do the same interviews 60 times in a row in an afternoon. a two minute interview on 60 radio shows across the country, you know, funny thing, it was a great movie. one little pitch for the movie, and they do that 60 times in a row, but they are actors, and actors do repeat lines -- [laughter] and authors -- that's not really what we're in the business for. doing relatively light
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interviews and even q and a like this i try to be in the moment and try not just deliver canned stuff, but at a certain point you can't help repeating yourself, and the whole thing has begun to seem oppressive because it's not really what writers are about. you know, i went into this business because i like spending a lot of time alone, and i do like being on stage, but, you know, i write the books so i don't have to do this myself. [laughter] and, i just honestly, i'm a little warn down by it. >> thank you. >> thanks. [applause] does that mean it's time to leave the stage? [laughter] okay, i think we have like five more minutes for questions.
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>> you end up becoming yourself and david get to talking about john and david foster wallace says sour things about him and how the stuff he writes is not humane, and david says you don't like him, he he says he's a nasty man, but if you think i don't like him, menace his name around john. i'm wondering why you hate him or what you don't like about his work? [laughter] >> well this is like fourth-hand information at this point; right? [laughter] it's actually within the realm of possibility that there was a transmission error there. [laughter] yeah, i have -- i think -- i think a lot of -- i'm not alone in my generation in feeling a frustration when you have somebody with a atlanta
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-- talent and what he chose to do with that talent. there was -- that generation of intensely self-absorbed writers were all -- ross is doing something within that soltism of him that self-reference, that sense of what ceases to exist, and really, what is there in the world? he manages to, you know, he's taking to that sort of heroic length, and heroic death, and he's really digging and digging and digging and putting himself at enormous personal risk on the page by doing that, so -- with updike i felt because he is that tremendous talent in describing things and doing these metaphors, he kind of kept
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falling back on that, and anything, you were like, my god, no one else is writing this well. it's amazing writing and 100 pages like that could get impatient admittedly, and certain stylistic ticks. like i said, i'm an irritable person. [laughter] but, you know, that's -- i, i would not want to go out as the great updike hater. i would go out as the person who gives him his due, and sort of wishes he published less and published better. >> a few weeks ago i was at the oprah show making the announcement selecting your book, "freedom" at book club selection and i was screaming in the audience excited about the
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announcement. how do you feel about people like oprah promoting authors like yourself, trying to bring you to the public? how do you feel especially this time "freedom" again being promoted again by her? >> i just taped the oprah on friday, that segment, talking about freedom and talking about her history. you know, i -- there was some things about the way it happened nine years ago, the way the book club was organized that made me uncomfortable, and i -- i rubbed me the wrong way. i don't think i was the first author to be rubbed the wrong way, just the first one stupid enough to say so. [laughter] even then, it was

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